A “calf” is a leg muscle, a baby cow, and a big chunk of ice. What’s all that about?
According to an online dictionary, a “calf” is also:
— Leather made of the skin of the calf, especially a fine, light-colored leather used in bookbinding
— A young elephant, seal or whale (also used for some other large animals)
— A small island, near a larger island (the Calf of Man)
— A cabless railroad engine
— (Informal, dated): An awkward or silly boy or young man, any silly person
The human calf muscle is important and you can do all sorts of nasty things to it: strain, pull, cramp, tear, or rupture. These do not include what other diseases might do to it.
“Calf” and “calf of the leg” are documented in use in Middle English, circa 1350 and 1425.
Words ending with an ‘f’ are easy enough to use in the singular, but plurals can be tricky. For gulf or chief or roof, you only need to add an s to create the plural—gulfs, chiefs, and roofs. With others, such as leaf and shelf, replace the ‘f’ with ‘ves’—leaves and shelves.
But Merriam-Webster lists “calfs” as an option for the plural of calf, especially when using the word as plural for calfskin. Here’s an example from The Denver Post: “… Hawaii’s whale-watching season, which winds down in May, when humpback whales are still nursing their new calfs and preparing for their long journey back to Alaskan waters.”
Maybe, someday, “calfs” will become the dominant plural form of calf, but for now it comes second to calves. If you’re not talking about calfskin, that is.
Calf is a noise rock/post hardcore band from Greece, influenced by American bands from the 80s and 90s like Unwound Melvins and Slint. CALF composes dark, cathartic and complex music, which often goes to extremes. Calf is also a novel by Andrea Kleine.
And that is all I know about calfs and calves, which is probably more than enough.